How do I begin a post after being away for two weeks? After everything I just experienced… It could be that I’m still in a travel-high as I just got home from my first European vacation, but I’ve been procrastinating writing this post, getting photos on my laptop, and editing everything. Maybe it’s that I’m still recovering from running around and soaking up all the history and culture of Finland that I could in less than ten days.
We chose Finland for the simple fact that, Jerad has been to most places in Western Europe and we wanted my first time to be something new we could both experience. Before getting to Helsinki I honestly had no idea what to expect, other than the very obvious I was going north in Europe to a cold country where the sun doesn’t set during summer months. Jerad and I watched YouTube videos, read up on Finland and always came out of it with the same results: don’t expect to eat amazing, authentic Finnish food, saunas are everywhere and it’s cold pretty much year-round (none of which bothered me, I was too excited to finally be going to Europe and escape Miami’s heat for a bit).
Flights to Helsinki do not come cheap, so I suggest looking into other cities (in Europe) to do a connecting flight! (we had a 24-hour layover in Madrid). Once you’re in Europe you’re sure to find cheap flights to your final destination, or even a train if you’re close enough. After months of researching, we pulled the trigger and booked my first European adventure!
Helsinki will always hold a special place in my heart, and I don’t regret for one second having chosen this beautiful city as my first!
So stay tuned for my a Helsinki travel guide for now, here are 10 things I learned in Helsinki:
- Everyone jumps into any body of water. Seriously though, if there’s water the Finns are jumping in. In almost every body of water you see, search around and you’ll find a railing for people to walk in and out. Multiple times we watched as people would strip down and go for a quick swim (pretty sure that’s illegal here in the States).
- People are ALWAYS out. This could be because we were there when summer was approaching, despite the weather feeling like early winter to us (40’s and a couple good days with low 60’s). Everyone is out at the parks, picnics, outdoor dinner and drinks- if it’s possible for them to be outside, they are. This also has to do with the fact that during winter months it’s the exact opposite and it’s always dark, and in all fairness, it’s hard to tell it’s 10 pm when the sun is still out.
- There are saunas everywhere you go! They are not joking about this when you read it. Saunas are your Saturday hangout spots. There are a lot of places where they have cafes and saunas so you will see groups of people walk in after dinner. People use the outdoor pools to take a quick dive when it gets too hot inside (yes, you can watch them run out dive in!).
- They love their beer and wine. Literally everywhere you go, hotdog stands, saunas, everywhere you can order wine and beer! We also noticed that a lot of times during and after dinner people are in the restaurants for wine and beer, but not to eat.
- It’s very rare you’re greeted out on the streets. But don’t take offense to this! The Finns are actually wonderful people, it’s just not in their culture!
- The sun pretty much never goes down during the summer months and it can be a little frustrating. Our first night there we stayed in an Airbnb and the bedroom didn’t have blackout curtains, let’s just say we were not too pleased when it was full-on daytime at 3 am. With that being said, it can be a little trippy, but in a good way since it does allow for more hours to go explore and get some pics!
- Finnish design is everything! It’s their claim to fame, and hands down some of the coolest designs I’ve seen, some may not be as practical but if it looks good, I’m sold! Did you know that the famous ball chair (photo below) was designed by a Finnish furniture designer, Eero Aarnio? The 3 legged stool we all still use that’s stackable, Finnish designer, and with that, I think I’ve made my point.
- Their architecture is just as cool! Helsinki does an incredible job at mixing modern buildings in with the old, in a way I’ve never seen done before. They keep with the same color scheme as the older buildings and give it a whole new twist, and in many buildings that include a top to bottom sliding glass enclosed patio (it’s so magnificent I’m at loss for words to fully describe it).
- Everyone and I mean EVERYONE obeys crosswalks. This may be a silly one, but it’s true. I’ve been to places where people really obey laws like these, but in no way like the Finns. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 am and 40 degrees with not a single car in sight if your light isn’t green, you wait- can you tell this happened to us multiple times?? Haha
- Summer is festival season! As soon as we got off the train into Helsinki we were greeted with music and crowds of people headed to a music festival! When we were researching summer activities in Helsinki there were a ton of festivals. Since we were there right before the true summer months we didn’t quite catch as many of them, but from what I’ve been told, they happen all summer long!